El Clasico is one of the most heated rivalries in world soccer. The battle between the two preeminent teams in Spain is about more than table position. It has always stood outside the league (or the Copa del Rey or the Champions League) as a battle between the titans of Spain. It’s heightened not only by sport-centric factors such as the sides’ differing approaches to team building and player development, but by the wider world of politics and culture as well. El Clasico is one of the few rivalries in the world that truly transcends sports.
Throw the Standings Out the Window
The weight of El Clasico’s matchup is important because there isn’t actually a lot on the line this year. Barcelona (26-0-8, 86 points in La Liga) have long clinched the title, and they’re 11 points clear of Atletico Madrid with a game in hand. Real Madrid (21-5-8, 75 points), meanwhile, have a Champions League final to focus on. If Real Madrid win Europe’s biggest knockout tournament for the third time in a row and the fourth time in five years, a disappointing domestic season will soon be forgotten. So what if Madrid are in third place in the league, 15 points behind their archrivals? Champions League glory beckons.
That’s not to say there’s nothing riding on the match, which kicks off at 2:45 p.m. ET on Sunday. Barcelona (-148) are four games from an undefeated season. The constant sky-high expectations that Lionel Messi (pictured above) and Co. face mean that even though they are all but certain to win two titles this season — they’ve already won Spain’s domestic cup in addition to cruising toward the La Liga crown — going undefeated is the only way this season won’t feel like a disappointment. Despite all of Barcelona’s success, the disastrous quarterfinal defeat to Roma in the Champions League still hangs over their head, and it’s the kind of result that only a nice cleansing victory over a bitter rival can help soothe.